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If you like James Thomson's story, you might also like:
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Related Links:
Embryo Project
Univ. of Wisconsin
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James Thomson
James Thomson
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James Thomson Profile

Father of Stem Cell Research

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  James Thomson

James Thomson's early interest in science led him in many directions, from math and physics to the preservation of endangered species, but it is his achievement in molecular biology that has placed him at the most exciting frontier of medical research.

In 1998, he achieved the so-called "Holy Grail" of molecular biology, the cultivation of human stem cells in the laboratory. These undifferentiated cells, found in the human embryo, eventually develop into the different kinds of cells that form all of the organs and tissues of the body. The reproduction of these cells in culture offer medical researchers the opportunity to study the function of our cells in health and in sickness, and to experiment on human cells without endangering human subjects.

Thomson's discovery generated massive publicity, hailed by those who saw a historic breakthrough for medical science, denounced by those who oppose experimental use of human embryos. Thomson's next major discovery may pose a solution to this controversy. In 2007, he announced that his team had successfully returned adult human skin cells to a near-embryonic pluripotent state, bypassing the use of human embryos in stem cell research.

While he downplays the prospect of imminent therapeutic application of his research, his work offers virtually unlimited possibilities for studying the mechanism of diseases such as Parkinson's, Huntington's, Alzheimer's and cancer. Wherever his research leads him, James Thomson's discoveries have already unveiled a breathtaking new vista of medical research.

This page last revised on Aug 20, 2010 17:14 EDT
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